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A court in Germany ruled a refugee who faced persecution because he converted from Islam to Christianity can receive political asylum.

In a case regarded as a precedent for others seeking asylum, the federal administrative court in Leipzig said Tuesday the Iranian defendant could face persecution if sent back to his native Iran, reported Deutsche Press-Angentur, the German press agency.

The judge said the man’s decision to join and regularly attend a Christian church was proof of his religious convictions. Those beliefs, he concluded, potentially conflict with policies of a conservative Islamic republic.

Abandonment of Islam, or apostasy, is punishable by death under Islamic law.

In the United States, illegal immigrants can receive asylum if they prove that they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group.

An estimated 1,000 asylum-seekers wait in detention centers around the U.S. for processing of their cases, said Matthew James Wilch, who handles asylum and immigration issues at Baltimore-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, according to the Baltimore Sun.

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